Huskers' revamped slate now has them opening against Rutgers on the road and making earlier trip to Columbus to face Ohio State
After the Big Ten unveiled its modified, 10-game, conference-only football schedule for all 14 teams on Tuesday, head coach Scott Frost and the Nebraska contingent may have winced. The Cornhuskers' season opener in the friendly confines of Memorial Stadium was removed and suddenly the entire slate featured a difficulty they weren't expecting until later this season. While Husker fans across the country may not love what the Big Red has to contend with, there are some positives to go along with the negatives.
1. Rusty Rutgers off the bat
Nebraska is expected to kick things off versus the Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, New Jersey, but there's an outbreak among the host's ranks. As of July 25, the team had been quarantined because of a growing number of positive COVID-19 cases popping up — 28 known as of this writing. There's still time for head coach Greg Schiano to address these issues before the Huskers are due to arrive, though. Despite what would be Nebraska's first season opener on the road since 1999, the team needs live snaps after having lost an entire spring's worth of football. The Scarlet Knights remain the closest thing to a sure-fire win that the Huskers will enjoy in 2020... in theory, at least.
2. Penn State minus Parsons
Several college football players around the nation are already opting to sit out the upcoming season due to their concerns about playing during a pandemic, their desire to focus on getting ready for the upcoming NFL draft, or another reason. One such who has already announced he is sitting out this fall is Micah Parsons, Penn State's All-American linebacker and someone who would have been one of the most important participants in the league. His taking the year off doesn’t make beating the Nittany Lions an effortless task. But not having to account for him definitely makes Frost and company's job easier.
3. Another bunch of Spartans in Lincoln
When Nebraska last welcomed Michigan State to Lincoln, it was an old-fashioned Big Ten slugfest. Both sides were treated to frigid conditions as the Huskers notched a 9-6 victory thanks to the lively leg of Barret Pickering. This now-added matchup also gives the Big Red an opportunity to settle a score with former Colorado head coach Mel Tucker. Following the 34-31 overtime thriller he spearheaded in Boulder, the home team will surely want to prove they can snuff out any future defensive efforts Tucker wants to dial up.
1. Nothing comes easy
With a nixed non-conference itinerary, Nebraska isn't afforded the chance to get in a rhythm. Even in the aforementioned game against Rutgers, they could see a familiar face in Noah Vedral whose knowledge of Frost's game plans might cause pause. Further problems could compound as soon as week three against Wisconsin who the Huskers weren't planning on originally trying to tackle until October. We could see the Big Red either rise or tank in a hurry as a result.
2. Sea of Red turns into calmed waters
Athletic director Bill Moos remains optimistic that a significant portion of Nebraska fans will take in their favorite fall activity, but this idea is understandably still in doubt. Regardless of whether or not the Cornhusker brass allows fans in a limited capacity, Memorial Stadium's intimacy helps the noise of 86,000 rabid Big Red backers echo off the opposition's helmets. One of the Huskers' greatest strengths looks to be significantly lessened, even under the best of circumstances.
3. Big, bad Buckeyes still loom in Columbus
Not even a pandemic could prevent Nebraska from trotting into Ohio Stadium to face Ryan Day's forces. A bevy of Buckeyes may opt out of the season but Ohio State is — and will remain — loaded for the foreseeable future. And while the game has been moved from Halloween to Oct. 10, it's still admittedly easy for Husker faithful to lament this situation. Just keep in mind it's not one that the Big Ten put Nebraska in without the best of intentions.
Stewart Mandel put it bluntly, but accurately.
As I recall the plan was you were supposed to be good, so that it'd be a marquee matchup every year. https://t.co/311z1l9UZ4— Stewart Mandel (@slmandel) August 5, 2020